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Game Details:
Who: Temple Owls
When: 10:30 a.m. CT
How: ESPNU (TV); 1500 ESPN (Radio)
BRACKET: Puerto Rico Tip-Off

UMKC, Louisiana-Monroe … Temple? No sooner have the Gophers teed off on a couple sluggish mid-major opponents do they head down to America’s favorite territory, Puerto Rico, to face some real live BCS opponents.

Holiday tournaments are a strange beast. They’re a fun way to see how the team stacks up against stiffer competition, but they occur so early in the season that teams are still finding their identity, shaking off the rust and tinkering with lineups. So, as much as you want it to be a barometer, they require a grain of salt when watching. Remember the Battle 4 Atlantis? I mean, they literally played those games in a ballroom.

Nevertheless, the Gophers square off with the Temple Owls in round one, and will play either Butler or Missouri State in round 2. After that it’s a crapshoot on whether they play Utah, Miss State, Miami or Tubby Smith’s Texas Tech squad.

Strictly from a resume standpoint, it would be beneficial to win the first round so the Gophers can play Butler, the likely winner. Playing the chalk, they would conceivably get a third game against Miami or Utah. Lose the first game and they get put at the kids table with Missouri State, Texas Tech and Miss State. None of those game are anything to write home about. For reference, here are the rankings, according to KenPom. As you can see the Gophers would much rather play up than down.

Utah – 20
Miami – 23
Butler – 31
Minnesota – 55
Temple – 78
Texas Tech – 98
Miss State – 133
Missouri State – 217

Hopes and rankings aside, we want the Gophers to come back with a couple of wins. Worst case scenario is they go 0-3 with losses to Temple, Missouri State and Miss State. That’s two bad losses.

Temple comes into the game at 0-1, with their only loss to the top team in the land, North Carolina. Coming off a season where they narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament, despite a 23-10 record, the Owls have their sights set squarely on the Big Dance this year. They lost two of their top scorers, but return a solid core, and have a veteran team that probably doesn’t need a whole lot of rust-shaking to get going. Facing North Carolina did a fine job of that.

Still, Temple sucks at shooting. They ranked 332nd (!) in FG percentage last year (39 percent) and 309th in 3-point percentage (30 percent). Losing their top two scorers certainly can’t help things, and their first game against UNC saw them put up a paltry 39 percent from the field.

The key question — can the Gophers win the rebounding battle? Temple will be missing quite a bit, and minimizing second chances will be crucial. So far, Minnesota hasn’t shown the ability to pull down boards or win the battle. So we’ll see. Another question — how will the freshmen respond to being at their first holiday tournament under the bright lights of ESPNU?